Throughout the 2019 season, Darren Waller took the Raiders’ offense and supercharged it. In his breakout season, Waller’s 1145 receiving yards led the team despite sharing time with the impressive Foster Moreau and reliable Derek Carrier.
With the 2020 season looming and the Raiders drafting three new, impressive wide receivers, Waller’s role is up in the air. In the best-case scenario for Waller, he finds himself demanding a double team due to his impressive athleticism, freeing up space for the wide receivers. In the worst-case scenario, however, Waller ends up similar to 2019 David Njoku, overlooked by his quarterback due to an excessive amount of star power.
In good news for Waller, the Raiders did bring in future Hall of Famer Jason Witten to mentor Waller and the other tight ends. Witten cannot be expected to see much playing time, but will likely be used as a veteran instructor for Waller, Moreau, and Carrier to hone in their tight end skills.
The problem arising from this is Waller’s uniqueness. While listed as a tight end, Waller displays steady flashes of receiver-like athleticism. He remains faster than most linebackers and stronger than most corners. If the goal of bringing Witten in is to make Waller more like a tight end, the Raiders could be wasting Waller’s talent and Witten’s time.
The positive notes here being that Derek Carr is still the Raiders quarterback. Sure, he has significant speed and talent to work with from the team’s receiving corps, but since 2016, Carr has established reliance on the tight end position that should keep Waller still involved. While the speed and talent around Waller have vastly improved, it is hard to imagine a situation in which Carr forgets all about his diamond-in-the-rough tight end.
Waller Stat Dip?
Expect Waller’s stats to decrease slightly, simply due to the added talent. Henry Ruggs III was the fastest receiver in the draft. If the Raiders have shown anything over the years, it could be their love of speed. Tyrell Williams will also be sliding back into his WR2 role in which he thrived in with the Chargers. Not to mention, Josh Jacobs expects more usage, as he solidifies himself as one of the best in the league.
Waller’s performance may not entirely be showcased on an individual level this season. Due to the attention he demands, other targets may see more open space to work with. As a result, this could be exactly what the Raiders need offensively. However, Waller may also benefit from open areas, vacated by speedy receivers.
As fans have seen the past, Carr will lock on targets. Now with the team having significantly more balance, Waller may be a crucial piece to the Raiders’ offensive puzzle.